Without their second-leading scorer, the Buckeyes lost 60-58 to the Boilermakers. Head coach Thad Matta confirmed that the decision to suspend Loving came from the athletics department. Loving is practicing, but not traveling when the team and when asked if he knew when the forward would be back Matta said, “Not exactly, I do not.”
Though they were forced to play without the Big Ten’s top three-point shooter (Loving has connected on 53.2 percent of his shots from distance this season), Matta said it didn’t change the offensive scheme for the Buckeyes.
“We haven't done anything drastically different in terms of our offensive scheme or anything like that,” Matta said. “We needed more pace to what we were doing, we needed more push. We weren't running the floor as hard as we should have been running the floor. We didn't convert when we had some opportunities in transition. Didn’t convert, didn’t finish. Those are the things that we talked about in terms of trying to play at our pace and not Purdue's pace in that game."
Boilermakers’ head coach Matt Painter said after his team’s win over Ohio State that without Loving, Purdue was willing to leave any Buckeye aside from D’Angelo Russell to shoot from the outside. That kept the Buckeyes from properly spacing the floor and compounded the post advantage that Purdue already had.
Matta acknowledged that without Loving, the team will need to find floor spacers. Redshirt freshman Kam Williams played 17 minutes against the Boilermakers, scoring five points while Keita Bates-Diop didn’t take a shot in five minutes of play. The coach called for more from both of those players.
“In the first half the other night, Kam was just out there,” Matta said. “We talked at halftime and said ‘Hey, you’ve got to create, you’ve got to find opportunities to shoot the basketball.’
“I think the other guy we need to play at a high level is Keita. He’s been very, very good in practice the last couple days and we’re pushing him to just say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to take the bull by the horns. Get out of the backseat and into the front seat and make things happen.’ With that said hopefully he is another guy along with Kam that can stretch the defense.”
Matta added that he hoped the opportunity presented by Loving’s absence pushes Bates-Diop to take a step that he may not of otherwise have taken. The coach also called for more from his senior class.
Senior point guard Shannon Scott went just 1-of-8 against Purdue. He said that not having Loving was no excuse for the sloppy play against the Boilermakers.
“Not having Marc on the court with us we’re a different team, but it shouldn’t have affected the way we played as a team,” he said. “We played hard that game, but we didn’t play too smart. We should have been able just to bounce back and take advantage of what we had on the court at the time. We didn’t do that and that’s bad on our part.”
It is unclear how much longer the Buckeyes will be a different team. Loving’s status could change at any point, Matta said, though he will not play tomorrow at Rutgers. Until he is back, the Buckeyes will have to compensate for his 11.7 points per game.